The top general from the U.S. military's Africa Command, known as
AFRICOM, said on Friday that the rise of radical Islamist militant
group al-Shabab in Somalia makes East Africa a central focus of the
U.S. military on the continent.
General William Ward has pledged
continued support to Somalia's transitional federal government and the
African Union forces operating there. He made his remarks during a
visit to Nairobi, Kenya, which is a key U.S. ally in region.
general said that al-Shabab's alleged link to international terrorist
group al-Qaida means that the region is a priority for AFRICOM on the
continent. The commander thanked Kenya for its ongoing partnership with
U.S. anti-terrorism efforts.
General Ward highlighted the U.S.
military's support of the African Union troops in Somalia and said that
the United States would continue to offer logistical assistance.
work being done by the African Union through its African Mission there,
AMISOM, is work we all support," he said. "It's work we will continue
to support. We have had roles in helping to train some of those AMISOM
forces. We have had roles in helping provide logistical support to the
AMISOM forces. And we would certainly look forward to continuing to do
that as the number of AMISOM forces continues to rise."
commander predicted that the "stalemate" in Somalia between the
pro-government forces and rebel Islamic militant groups would be broken
as the number of AMISOM forces rises.
AMISOM is technically
neutral in the conflicts between pro-government forces and the rebel
groups but has been accused of fighting with the anti-government
militias. AMISOM forces protect key sites in Mogadishu including the
airport, the presidential palace, and the seaport.
about U.S. warnings to Eritrea against its alleged support of
al-Shabab, the U.S. general condemned any outside support for the
"Any time a nation or a state is purposely
doing things that incite, contribute to instability, insecurity - that
is something that none of us would agree with. And we would hope that
any legitimate government, any legitimate nation would in fact be doing
otherwise," he said.
AFRICOM was created in late 2007 and
formally activated a year later. The new command structure oversees
military relationships with all African countries except Egypt.
military command is based in Germany. Reports that AFRICOM
headquarters could eventually be based within the African continent
have generated controversy and some open hostility from African
leaders. Liberia is the only African nation to have publicly announced
its willingness to host the U.S. military African Command.
AFRICOM's official website describes its base in Germany as an "interim" headquarters.
Ward also used the visit to praise Kenya for accepting captured Somali
pirates that have plagued the waters off of Africa.
AFRICOM's role in the continent is to help friendly African countries
build their security capacities through mutual partnerships.